70 Lt La Trobe St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
I think if it weren’t for Fakegf, I’d have an almost non-existent social life. Time and again, she’d be the proxy through which I’d end up catching up with some of my fellow foodies and blog mates. Our meal here came about because an Instagram follower, Felicia, was leaving Melbourne for good and she wanted a little farewell do. And once again, I got wind of the gathering via Fakegf.
The other backstory to this meal revolves around Fatbee’s shift work. We dined here on a Saturday night where he had to work a night shift. I faced the dilemma between attending Felicia’s farewell and leaving Fatbee to have dinner (alone) and go to work by himself on a Saturday night. Or I could eat with Bee, send him to work and then spend the rest of the night alone.
In the end, I decided that attending Felicia’s farewell was ‘more important’. It was really ironic that I ended up dining at ChangGo before he did when it’s HIM who was a lot more keen on visiting this place. Poor poor Bee… he was SO upset about this turn of events he even started looking for another job!
I remember Fatbee and I walking past the ‘gates’ of this imposing mecca of laneway’d Korean BBQ goodness last Summer. Korean’s a cuisine that’s burgeoning very quickly in Melbourne’s food scene, but this place is famed for it’s signature pork belly set, and there’s always a dauntingly huge crowd waiting at its doors.
Side Dishes (kimchi, marinated onions, pickles)
Ginger Sake (7%, 180ml) ~ $ 7.5
Fortunately, Felicia managed to nab an early table at 6pm and we found ourselves skipping the waiting queues… score!! The venue is very dark and moody, with lots of warm wood, bare bricks, and atmospheric black exhaust pipes (to catch the BBQ smoke) hanging down from the ceilings.
Business is brisk here, we placed our order and the refillable kimchi side dishes immediately arrived. We found ourselves loving the spicy housemade kimchi. Meanwhile, I also sampled a sweet hit of ginger-flavoured sake.
PALSAIK SET: 8 COLOURFUL FLAVORS OF PORK ~ $ 58.8
Wine, Original, Ginseng, Garlic, Herb, Curry, Miso Paste, Red Pepper Paste
Assorted Vegetable, 2 Steam Rice, Seafood Soybean Paste Stew
We embarked on our ChangGo Korean BBQ journey with the much-famed 8 Flavours of Pork Belly set. It came with fresh veggies, two bowls of steamed rice and a spicy seafood stew (which tasted okay). I was quite fascinated with how they’d created a whole (bespoke?) wooden board with little depressions to hold each of the 8 plates of pork belly, complete with etchings describing what flavour each plate holds.
Before I describe how the pork belly was cooked, we’ll go into which flavours we liked most. When it comes to Korean BBQ, I usually prefer my meats unmarinated, so I was walking on dangerous territory here since everything was flavoured except for the original plain belly. I made sure I sampled the plain pork belly first, and thankfully, I thought it was nice and flavoursome enough for me to be happy. So at least the base meat had decent quality to it.
As for the flavoured selections, I found myself liking quite a few of them because they did not really go ham-fisted with the seasonings so you could actually tell the difference between each flavour. The wine pork belly was actually marinated with sake (brilliant!), the ginseng belly held light herbal hints… and of course, one can’t possible go wrong seasoning meats with garlic or miso paste. The flavours that did not work for me were the herb (thyme / rosemary… eww!), curry (tasted like curry-flavoured Twisties snack!) and red pepper paste (it’s the boring over-flavoured Korean spicy chilli sauce).
Beansprouts, kimchi, rice cakes, onion, potato, carrot, garlic
And here’s our ornate hotplate set-up for the pork belly set. I think it was quite ingenious that the plate’s actually set at an angle, so that all the oil and drippings can flow into a removable container (on the left) that’s embedded into the table. And another cute aspect of this set-up was the daikon-on-a-stick tool, you use it to scrape / clean the hot plate.
Kimchi Jji Gae (with Beef Combo Set – see below)
The pork belly set was supposed to be enough for 2-3 persons, so since there were four of us (me, Felicia, Fakegf and The Angmoh), we decided to also sample the beef offerings here. Seeing that the beef set also came with soup, our waitress was nice enough to let us swap the seafood stew with this delightfully spicy kimchi stew.
Fakegf is quite openly unfond of the stinky, smoky affair that’s Korean BBQ (what a travesty!). So she declared that she’d have been happy just faceplanting herself into this bowl of spicy kimchi goodness… excellent for her flu!
BEEF COMBO ~ $ 48.8
Assorted Vegetable, 2 Steam Rice | Marinated Flank Beef
Top Side beef (w salt & pepper) | Premium Beef Rib
I confess we over-ordered… hungry or not, four persons shouldn’t really order two sets (with each set feeding 2-3 persons) especially when some of us weren’t that big on Korean BBQ. We also discovered that if you read the menu carefully, the beef offerings in the beef set mainly consisted of marinated beef.
Here’s the griller set-up for the beef set. I personally think beef should be enjoyed plain, so I did not quite take to having honey soy and other sweetish seasonings in the mix. The quality of the beef used here was also mediocre, even the (plain) premium beef rib did not quite hit the mark for me.
The bottom line is: when dining at ChangGo, stick with the pork belly dishes!
The other thing that irked me a little about this place was how the heat source came from gas stoves, with perhaps a token piece of coal or two on a rack above it to give it some ‘oomph’. Fatbee has well and truly ‘Asianified’ (and spoilt) me, taking me to Korean BBQ gems like Guhng (excellent pork there by the way) and G2 Korean BBQ (excellent beef there) where they use red hot coals to cook your food. So seeing gas stoves here didn’t really impress me.
Quibbles aside, I still enjoyed my journey into “8 flavours of pork belly” here because the quality was quite good despite it being a bit gimmicky (and overrated). But all that said, I personally found the service to be somewhat rushed and hasty (slamming & cramming cutlery / food hastily on our tables doesn’t quite rock my boat).
I also thought the ambience to be not-that-great because they played loud and annoying techno music. So dining here is probably more suited for the young ’uns, where you get a good, value-for-money pork belly feast (it’s cheaper than other Korean BBQ joints) in a very buzzy atmosphere thumping with loud music!